As every end of the year, it is time to take stock, to review the good, the bad and what was left pending. And perhaps, this time the reflection is deeper than in previous years, because we said goodbye to a difficult 2020, in which we had to be resilient – or learn to be resilient – and try to make the best of ourselves to move forward. And despite the adversity, this year has allowed us to value what is really important, to get out of the maelstrom to which we were accustomed, to stop for a moment and enjoy the small details.
And even in this scenario in which we try to solve the difficulties, corruption gives no respite. We have witnessed how crises bring with them greater corruption, because the urgency to survive, save the business and get ahead, is capable of making the siege of ethics run, eliminate controls, make hasty decisions and seek the easy way, all under the self-justification that we are in a pandemic, as if that would lower the nature of the crime.
Thus, we have known several cases in the world associated with the health crisis such as overpricing of ventilators, ambulances, masks and even body bags, in addition to contracts awarded without public tender. Of course, Chile has not been the exception and today irregular cases are being investigated in the contracts of sanitary residences, food boxes and at the time it was even necessary to modify the law to sanction the companies that changed their line of business to operate as essential. And this issue is far from over, as the pandemic continues, the emergencies are still present.
And even with the harshness of this 2020, we can rescue that corruption has become visible as never before. This was demonstrated in a recent study by the Comptroller’s Office that revealed that Chileans perceive that the country is much more corrupt than in 2019, and the irregularities derived from the pandemic have helped to increase this perception.
This study also points out that 51.4% of those surveyed confessed to having been a victim or witness of corruption, but only 32.9% would have reported it. So it is urgent that people dare to denounce, at the same time that there is greater protection for those who do, because if they do not denounce, we do not see corruption and we remain in the bubble we lived in until before 2011, when we believed that these things did not happen in Chile.
Another example of the visibility of corruption comes from the hand of an unprecedented fact: the first conviction in an oral trial for Criminal Liability of Legal Entities to the company Corpesca, for bribing parliamentarians in the context of the processing of the Fishing Law. The court also convicted former parliamentarians Jaime Orpis and Marta Issasi, for bribery and tax fraud, still awaiting their final sentence.
And continuing with the unprecedented facts that point in the right direction, there is the announcement of the first formalization hearing against the AB InBev Brewery, the first company charged for the crime of bribery between private parties (which was added only in 2018 to the Penal Code).
So, in the midst of one of the great crises, we have the opportunity to do things differently. And in that sense, I highlight “The Great Reset” initiative promoted by the World Economic Forum, to lay the new foundations for a fairer and more sustainable future. In this, companies play a major role, committing themselves to their environment, beyond business and money, and being a real contribution to the prevention of corruption, through strong controls that isolate the corrupt.
We have a tremendous challenge for 2021. If crises represent an opportunity, today is the time to demonstrate it.
By: Susana Sierra
Source: La Tercera